Posts Tagged ‘voting’

This morning as I was sitting in the auditorium at Jefferson Elementary School with hundreds of excited children, teachers, parents and friends, it was an amazing experience.   I watched my children sitting in the audience while the whole Inaugural process unfolded on a big screen. Listening to all the children’s excited chatter validated that it was the only place I wanted to be on the day of Barack Obama’s inauguration as our 44th President.  Tears streamed down my face as I thought about how significant and amazing this victory was. Born and raised in Berkeley, CA I never thought I would see the day when an African American multicultural man would become the President of the United States. People think that Berkeley is this ultra liberal city and it certainly is today. It wasn’t like that when I grew up in the “flatlands”. Where immigrants and minorities were allowed to buy homes but “red lined” out of the prestigious properties in the Berkeley hills where only the non-minorities were allowed to live.

Yes, while I attended public schools I met and befriended children of all nationalities. However, I encountered a lot of racist comments.  Labels like  “Ching Chong Chinaman” and “slant eyes” were something that I was called. I’ll never forget the feelings of being labelled something demeaning or some one  to be ridiculed and made fun of because of the color of my skin and the shape of my eyes. I learned to rise  above those situations and to fight back. I vowed to educate people who made fun of us, not contribute to the dialogue of cultural racism.

When my twin boys were born 5-1/2 years ago, I had the stroke of luck to meet our nanny, Carolyn. She is an incredible woman who had been a nanny for decades and raised a number of children in several families.  She is loving, affectionate and an important member  of our family. My children only know and love her as their nanny. They don’t notice that she’s an African American because they only know her as Carolyn.  They aren’t “color blind”, they just don’t think about the color of people’s skins as something important.

These are all the thoughts and images that flash through my mind as I watched Barack Obama proudly state his inaugural oath.  What a glorious time to be alive and to see that we are all people…all united….and that deep down inside, it is about how we treat each other as human beings that truly counts.

It was wonderful watching the millions of people in Washington DC. But nothing could be more magical than to be with my children to share in their wonder and belief in seeing our new President Barack Obama being sworn in. They will grow up in a time when an African American will be their President, a woman will be their Secretary of State, the Cabinet members will be competent men & women who happen to come from all the different communities that make up our country.  This is a moment to savor forever.  Mable


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As we all hear about the great stories of women voting at the recent elections, one in particular stood out in my mind that I’d like to share with you all.  This is the story of Tameeka Kelley and the applause she received the day she brought her daughter to the polls to vote!  Tameeka is one of our members and strongest supporters.  Read on….
“Election day, I awoke with such new ambitions, not for myself, but for my children. I’ve never understood clearly why voting was so important, until the word “Change” became the desperate need for our nation.
Being a mother of three children, and not being able to afford a loaf of bread simplifies the need for change. Overall, this economy is deeply consumed by debt that my family and I had nothing to do with creating, but it is unfair that we the tax payers have to bail out the irresponsible. I seriously have to question, are we living in a country of democracy or enslavement?
I’m a very concerned parent and feel that it is very pertinent that we communicate with our children and expose them to what is necessary, especially  at time when it seems as if we are living in an abject society. As parents, mentors, and leaders,  we influence our children to make intelligent decisions by giving them options that can be determined often times by balance of good or bad. Well, the day of the election I gave my daughter no options but exposed her to the privilege  and power of voting. I had to drive 45minutes to from Hercules to Hayward  to get  the polls. I expressed to Thalia that voting was the only way we, as her parents can contribute to help change our nation. I also explained to her that we were not just voting for Barack Obama because he was an African American, but because he understood most of the problems that mommy and daddy were facing. Also, I told her that Obama has a plan, and is aware of what it is going to take to give her and her siblings a better opportunity in life.
We arrived at the polls, and as we walked through the door to vote, I explained to Thalia everything that I was doing at that moment and why. One of the most touching moments as I was signing my name on the confirmation list, is when  I glanced at the sheet and saw my parents signature. This was actually the first time they voted, which gave me even more of an adrenaline rush. I showed Thalia and she gave me this smile of honor and innocence that only a child can give, that she was proud and confident.
My daughter and I went through the ballot and the first thing we did was vote for our President.  She quickly spotted Obama and Biden’s names, and drew the line to accomplish our mission. I also explained to her all of the propositions as basically as possible.
As we completed the ballot and proceeded to place it in the machine, I couldn’t help but notice people staring.  As Thalia cast our vote into the machine, people began to clap and cheer. That was a special moment for my daughter and I, because from this historical experience she will remember and become a generational voter, when she is eligible to vote. I wonder, how many people will she encourage and impact to exercise their right to be heard. I’m already a proud parent, and now even more so, a proud American!! My vote helped to determine our 44th President-Elect,  Barack Obama.
The footnote to this story is that Tameeka has been deeply involved with Engage Her and has motivated and inspired her parents to vote for the first time. So she has exercised the greatest power and influence of all. She encouraged her parents to vote who have never participated before. She also gave her daughter Thalia the experience of a lifetime to be celebrated when she voted at the polls.  Tameeka contributed mightily to helping us rebuild and encourage our families and communities to participate.  Congratulations and kudos to Tameeka for all her hard work and efforts.   Mable

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Exciting news! We are having our film broadcast on a widely watched Mandarin news channel program called Dialogue 360  hosted and produced by Jay Stone Shih tomorrow night. On Thursday and Friday, October 16 & 17 our entire documentary will be broadcast in two segments. This is historic to be able to have a full documentary screened on a half hour news channel. Dialogue 360 is watched by a huge audience of Chinese Mandarin speakers and our film will be shown with subtitles.

There’s a story behind the making of the translation. It was a global project where we found a Chinese woman, Wu Nan who helped us quickly translate our document into Mandarin. I found her through a personal friend and famous blogger, Xiao Qiang who is the editor of China Digital Times one of the most widely read news portals on China related events. Xiao is also an Adjunct Professor at UC Berkeley so he recommended his former journalism student Wu Nan who returned to Beijing and we made the connection.

After the show is broadcast in English with mandarin subtitles, you will still be able to view it on their website archives.  Tell any friends who speak Chinese/Mandarin to watch.  Mable

Here’s the press release about this important broadcast and hope you tune in.


Engage Her Announces Broadcast of Documentary in Mandarin

Publicly Acclaimed Documentary Motivates Women & Minorities to Take Political Action

October 14, 2008 (Berkeley, CA) – “Engage Her: Getting Minority Women to Lead and Vote”, a 48-minute documentary produced to inspire women minorities to participate in the political process, will be broadcast on the Dialogue 360 show in Mandarin. Jay Stone Shih is the producer and news anchor of this highly regarded program. The half-hour news show is carried on cable to millions of Mandarin-speaking viewers. The documentary will be broadcast in two segments, on October 16, and October 17, 2008 from 10:30-11:00 p.m. It is broadcast on Channel 38 or Comcast Channel 21 in Northern California.

Mable F. Yee, CEO & co-founder of the social action start-up EngageHer.org , hailed the broadcast as an historic outreach to the huge population of Chinese-speaking voters. The Chinese is the largest single community in the national Asian American Pacific Islander population. The film, co-produced by Yee and Director Maria Victoria Ponce, interviews leading minority women, including Germaine Wong, Chairperson of Chinese for Affirmative Action; Janis Hirohama, League of Women Voters California President; Lillian Galedo, Executive Director of Filipinos for Affirmative Action; Dr. Gwendolyn Mok, Associate Professor at San Jose State University; Margaret Ouye, Internment camp detainee; Congresswoman Barbara Lee; social activist Dolores Huerta and non-voters. The film shares their personal stories and explores the complex reasons why nearly 70 percent of Asian Americans and Latinas, and 40 percent of African American women, failed to vote in the 2004 elections. The movie trailer is available at www.engageher.org.

Getting the 30+ million minority women in the U.S. engaged in voting and leadership spurred Yee and Mina Wilson, a community activist and education consultant, to form EngageHer.org.

Yee says the organization was born out of the need to bring a voice to minority women, who are invisible in the media and lack adequate representation in our government, “These are the women whose children and families are most impacted by our inadequate education, health, and work policies, and yet our issues and concerns are not addressed. It’s as if we don’t exist.”

“We will use Engage Her as a platform to educate and activate women, minorities and communities to step up and influence our nation’s policies. Without our involvement, we lack a real democracy and our issues continue to be ignored,” Yee adds. “By creating a film that shows women discussing the cultural, social and political barriers that prevent or influence their voting behavior, is crucial to accelerating the process of engaging this huge block of voters and future leaders. To have our film translated with Chinese subtitles allows us to engage this population of voters in their own language so that they can better understand the reasons and need to participate in the voting and political process.”

In addition to the documentary, Engage Her is partnering with scores of national and regional minority, women and leadership organizations, including Mobilize Immigrant Voters, Chinese for Affirmative Action, Filipinos for Affirmative Action, Votolatino.org, Colorofchange.org, Momsrising.org, League of Women Voters, The White House Project, Women’s Media Center, Democracy for America and more. They will be collaborating to develop new initiatives to address their key issues of concern: Education, Health, the Economy, the Environment and Social Justice.

“We’ve had enough of candidates coming every four years to solicit our vote, and then disappearing until the next election without addressing the real issues that exist within our communities” says Mina Wilson, Vice President.

By bringing minority women’s voices to the table, EngageHer.org plans to achieve political representation and hold elected officials accountable for their actions. The nonprofit organization is harnessing the speed, scale, and reach of the Internet to rapidly engage members and leverage its members to demand change.

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Why did I start this blog?  I have spent 20+ years  in the business world operating in environments where  decision makers were predominantly males.  There never seemed to be enough females in executive and decision making positions…much less minority females and I felt like it’s time to take action to encourage more inclusion. One way to change the power and infrastructure is if women take on leadership positions both within the private sector as well as in the government.  During the past few decades with the initial support of programs like Affirmative Action, we’ve gained the experience and credibility to assume higher leadership positions.  However, It’s critical that we continually push and assume executive & leadership positions in the private and government environment.  It’s the only way to have a strong voice,  definitive impact and create lasting change. 

However, as I looked around I noticed that there still aren’t enough women of ethnic and minority backgrounds in leadership positions to make huge changes.  As I began to research articles, I found out in the area of voting,  minority women voted in far lower percentages than majority females. In the 2004 elections 125 million people voted with women out voting the men. Overall, of the eligible people who could vote, 65% women voted compared to 62% of the men. There were approximately 26 million minority women who were eligible to vote.  However, while 70% of majority white women voted, 60% African American women and only 40% of Latinas and Asian women voted.  

Let’s think back to how close the presidential elections of 2000 were and the razor thin victories in different elections like a state governorship determined by less than several hundred votes. We  can see how this huge group of minority women voters could have major impact on the consequences on our country’s direction. When you think about how minority women represent the heads of households for many families, affect every aspect of their children’s education, health, housing and vote in larger numbers than men, it really makes you respect their significance. I began to question why minority women voted in far less percentages than their non-minority counterparts. If you look at minority women in leadership roles, in many industries the percentages are significantly lower.

I reflected upon my own parents who came from China. My father was a U.S. Naval officer and served our country for 24 years. Yet I never recalled that he nor my mother ever voted nor encouraged me to vote.  I realized that my own awareness and political conciousness didn’t develop until I attended the University of California in Berkeley and learned about the importance of voting and becoming involved in politics.

As I started to research the reasons why minority women voted in lower percentages, I discovered it’s a very complex problem affected by a huge number of factors. Different racial and ethnic groups face multiple hurdles and issues depending upon factors such as language, education, citizenship, income, etc.  Issues such as: being born in an immigrant family heavily influenced by the homeland cultural values, having parents who came from autocratic, communist or corrupt countries where there were no democratic opportunities to participate and vote, fear and mistrust of the government, language barriers, cultural emphasis on women to not speak up nor “rock the boat” for fear of reprisals, lack of civic duty and responsibility for voting, pressures to obtain a good education and jobs, deterrence from the males to participate in democracy and voting, etc.

As you research the different cultures and races, the issues vary tremendously and are very profound. I feel that the best way to try and understand some of these issues is to conduct interviews and to capture the personal stories of  women who represent these cultures, generations, and families.  Statistics alone cannot reveal the depth of the conflicting issues and pressures that these women face.

As a result, the research project has evolved from a book to a documentary we are producing called:

Engage Her! Getting minority women to vote

The documentary will be released later this Spring to impact the voting cycle of our 2008 elections.

In addition, we are launching this blog to incorporate the use of New Media, social networks and technologies to complement our efforts in sharing our findings. With the changes in generations and people’s adoption of new media to communicate, it’s critical to share and publish our stories in the most popular and prevalent media.  I am inviting a number of different minority women and representatives of organizations to post about relevant topics that influence our decisions about voting and leadership. As we interview women of different ethnic and racial groups, we’ll be posting about their stories, perspectives and including videos of their contributions.   I am fortunate to be co-producing this documentary with a Latina filmmaker, Maria Victoria Ponce .  She is equally excited about capturing the personal stories of minority women regarding their attitudes towards voting & participation. We’ll be asking their opinions of how we can engage themselves, their mothers, daughters and friends into the political and leadership process so can increase our overall representation in the system.

In addition, since we are faced with a unique opportunity for women to vote for the first time in history for either a woman or an African American candidate in one party for President, it will be interesting to see if more women feel compelled to vote based on these unique candidates qualifications. Our interviews will be conducted with women of all ages, races, generations, different political affiliations, etc. to get a broad perspective of the issues we all face.

We’ll also be interviewing people and organizations who have used innovative technology and marketing solutions to engage women both online & offline to involve them in social advocacy. With the New Media and social networks that have rapidly evolved, there is a whole new way of engaging the generation raised with mobile and networked technologies. We plan to invite women to interview their mothers, friends and communities about their opinions and post their videos online to share. We want to explore these stories and to hear their personal voices.  We invite you to join us and hope you will  share your stories so we can all learn from them.

Thank you for reading and we look forward to your comments.   Mable

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